These were the words that the kind gentleman from the tax office used to welcome us as we signed ourselves into Vilhelmina.
He took us to the map on the wall, pointed his finger at South Africa, then at Vilhelmina. He shook his head, with a smile on his face, and we laughed along.
Quite often, this last month, this tax-man’s impressions have been our words too. Do we KNOW where we are? And often we shake our heads, laugh (most often, rather too hysterically…) and try to comprehend the massive changes we are undergoing as we make our home in the north. The very very very FAR north. 65degrees above the Equator north. That’s a whole lot further from the sun’s happy jaunt down the middle of the earth than we are used to.
Sorry for not catching up with everybody sooner. We arrived in Sweden on 13 August, after the usual craziness of leaving the old country and have stepped into more craziness, as we attempt to make this old country our own.
We had a few days with Sandrew (my brother and his great wife) in Uppsala. It was a really great time to see where they live and to get some supplies in a big city. We had just a few days with them, then began the journey up north, to our new hometown.
The journey was spent slathering tissues under my nostrils as the aeroplane generously gifted me with a nasty cold that was set to boomerang throughout the first weeks here… tissues are still lying besides me now. This has been one of my most difficult challenges in this time: starting up everything new with a blocked head, nose, lungs is not a recommended path of entry. But, especially as I started my new job at the school without any voice at all, I realised the message was clear. “Be still. Hush. Listen and learn.” (I had no option but to obey).
We are settling in rather well in our new village \ hometown. Vilhelmina has a small population (about 3500 residents in the town) but is very well supplied. It is a GORGEOUS town and the beauty grown by the day as Autumn advances. We spent the first two to three weeks staying at the school itself, with amazing views over Volgsjön lake.
We would run down to the lake to catch the sunset (at about 9.30 at night) and enjoy the glory around us. What spectacular scenes to treasure!
Real life has involved starting up at the school and feeling rather overwhelmed. The Swedish system is quite different to that in SA, and I have a big spread of years to teach (from Grades 1 –9). Language is proving to be a challenge for both of us. The smaller towns see fewer people fluent in English, and I have several students who know no English at all. I am grateful for others in the classes who do have a firm grip of both Swedish and English, for sign language and the bit of Swedish I have got in my brain. This bit will have to grow very quickly! Other parts of real life have been getting bank accounts, registered within the Swedish social system, getting transport sorted out, finding a place to live, and then all the smaller things that a move requires. I have learned to love second hand stores, cheap shops and even the tip has provided some great furniture!
We have found a lovely flat we are renting, on the banks of the Vojmån river. It is not too small but cosy and we love the blessing of the sight of the river before us and the forests beside us. We are only 5km from town, which is a good distance as we get used to some of the northern challenges, like the cold, snow (first fall is expected this week, on South Africa’s national braai day!!) and and the cold. (We are a little hesitant about the cold, perhaps you noticed…)
(this is the view from our patio. We count the blessings every day!)
Our mental state is quite shaken and stirred, I think. There are so many blessings that we recognise as God opening the way for us, like getting person numbers in a day, when that usually takes 6 weeks. Like being surrounded by gracious, forgiving people when I get things wrong. Like being welcomed with tremendous freindliness into this town. We also feel the challenges. Deon is struggling a great deal with what his reason for being here is, as work prospects are slim presently, the language is rather overwhelming for him, and the way people think is very different to the usual “hakuna matata” or very corrupt beurocratic ways we have seen in Africa. I love the kids I teach already, but feel challenged and stretched by the job and new expectations (I have not been teaching for 5 years! What a change!)
But we are getting settled and finding our feet. I have now got a lovely new laptop with Swedish keyboard and we have hooked up internet, so blogs can happen more regularly now.
Wishing you blessings as you step into this week’s gifts to you. And hoping you understand where you are, as we figure out where we are bit by bit.